The Pregonaut

A non-breeder's journey into the unknown

The Cats and the Cradle June 2, 2010

Filed under: Space Detritus — anditron @ 10:00 am

My sweet little girls, Lorelei & Escher

Up until two weeks ago, we’ve had three cats who we loved like children. Heck, it was their odd behavior that tipped my husband off that I was pregnant well before I told him I suspected it. When we decided to have a kid we knew there was no way those kitties were going to go anywhere. This is a hard thing to do it seems, I read (and saw) plenty of stuff where people either said you shouldn’t have cats around kids or they said they just couldn’t give them the attention they need.

Okay, let’s start with the OMG cat’s might hurt baby! malarkey. debunks the cats stealing babies breath and even the cats lying on baby and suffocating baby BS that people love to spew because they don’t know any better. The fact is, pets are important to babies and children. They teach them compassion, caring, how to handle another living thing with care, responsibility and much much more. I don’t quite understand why cats got the bad rep while dogs got away as simple protectors, but I’m going to guess it goes back to SIDS and people’s lack of understanding what causes SIDS. When a child dies, people need to blame something and when there’s nothing else, well, blame the cat I suppose.

Right, now that that’s done… I’m not going to lie and say it’s been easy keeping our cats. It’s true with dogs too (though I personally think having a dog would be harder work) keeping your pets once you have a baby takes commitment, teamwork and a lot of patience.

Our eldest kitty, Escher was diagnosed with kidney failure just a month after finding out we were pregnant. And as a result she started peeing outside of the litter boxes. And Finn, our 12 year old middle kitty, would pee outside the box in retaliation. It was a disaster. As all pregnant women know, our sense of smell is so powerful Superman could fart on Mars and it would bother us. We couldn’t go a day without the out-of-box pee battle, but our kitties weren’t just pets, they were family and you don’t give up on family. So we were committed to make it work, knowing that Escher probably wouldn’t even make it till the birth. We struggled through 9 months of the issue, buying puppy pads and keeping the floor where the battle happened covered in plastic so they wouldn’t ruin it. Bob909 deserves many awards for his hard work keeping me happy and our catbox area clean.

Bedtime for Bot

When I say Escher was a hater kitty, this is no small understatement. Escher hated everyone except me, and even I was the target of her anger if I ever dared pet her more than 3 times a pop. But when she was sweet, she was incredibly sweet and worth every growl and nip. It’s hard to believe that 16 years ago, I brought home a kitten that only came near me if I was wearing black. Finn is our nurse kitty and our lap cat. He’s happiest snuggling up with one of us especially when we’re trying to do something on the computer. He was Bob909’s cat coming into our relationship. And then there is Gizmo. He is the the kitten, filled with tons of energy he’s always racing through the house. He’s dopey and more dog like than cat like. I’m surprised we haven’t taught him to fetch yet. You can toss him around, rough house with him, pretty much anything and he’ll put up with it. And we adopted him a few weeks after we moved in together. The merging of our family four years ago did not come easy. We have a tendency to jump in first and figure out if we can swim later. Which is why when we moved in, we probably should have slowly introduced them better than we did.

But it is what it is, right and as we got closer to our daughter’s birth, I didn’t really know what to expect the cats to do. I think I expected them all to just ignore her, at least at first. Most people told me how cats hate crying babies and they’d stay away from her room and avoid her in general. What I didn’t expect was how our daughter changed our cats.

Before we came home from the hospital, Bob909 brought home a blanket we’d wrapped our daughter in so they could get used to the smell. We had her nursery finished about a month before she was born so they could get used to the smell of diapers, powders, diaper rash goo, etc., etc., etc. The boys, who I sort of expected to be friendlier with our daughter, often kept their distance. While they would come around her when she was asleep, they had the tendency to run when she cried. Gizmo would follow us to our daughter’s bedroom but stand in the hallway, a safe distance away to observe what was going on.

The standout, was Escher. Our hater kitty became a different cat from the moment we walked through the door with Lorelei. I was sitting on the couch with her and Escher walked up and laid down next to us. When our Bot let our with her first cry, Escher didn’t flinch, she didn’t move and I’d dare say she even moved closer to her. Over the next four months Escher became more and more removed from us, clearly due to her illness. But if we laid our girl on her mat, Escher came by to be near her. The most amazing part was that Escher let Lorelei reach down to pet her without a single aggressive action. Our daughter reached out her hand dropped it down heavy on Escher, caught a fistful of skin and fur and began to yank back and forth and our cat’s only reaction was a visible look of I’m not enjoying this but she still sat their and waited for the Bot to let go. And even then Escher sat there waiting for Lorelei to finish with her interest rather than growling and running off as soon as she was free.

When we went to take Escher to the vet to put her to sleep (she was slowly starving to death and the time had come to ease her suffering) Lorelei came with us. Their connection was so strong there was no way we could say goodbye to Escher without our daughter being there with us. The Bot did an incredible job. She stayed calm through it all, no fussing, no crying. But she did hug Bob909 and I tight when we cried.

Since Escher’s passing the house has been much quieter. We cleaned the catbox area and haven’t had an incident outside of the box since. The boys have started coming around the Bot more often, even letting her pet them the way Escher used to. They both sleep on the bed now (Finn wouldn’t the last 4 months of Escher’s life). They are much more tolerant of her crying now and even try to cuddle up with her. Gizmo has calmed down a lot, he doesn’t chase after Finn as much and he’s always watching Lorelei to see what she’s up to. The boys have even started to lay down with each other lately.

The hater kitty, not so much with the hating

The Bot has more interest in the boys too. She smiles when she sees them come up to her and she reaches out to them whenever she can. It’s especially cute to see her in her activity center seat and one of them walks by and pauses for her to pet them.

It’s pretty sad to not have Escher around anymore but to know how our daughter changed her gives us a little joy when thinking about the end. Escher went from being such an angry kitty to such a loving kitty and I credit it all to my daughter. So anyone who tries to tell me that cats shouldn’t be around babies, well, I’ll gladly tell them they’re crazy.


4 Responses to “The Cats and the Cradle”

  1. rosie Says:

    Thank you for this post. It made me cry at the end. I have a ‘hater’ cat who as the years go on loves us more and more. I’m in my first trimester and sleeping all the time, and my ‘hater’ has learned the joys of under the covers sleeping. So unusual for a cat! I always wonder if she will accept our new baby (Cat, will always be baby #1) or school the baby in how to “be nice to kitty.” Either way, the cat isn’t going anywhere, and I’m glad I’m not alone in that.

  2. enero Says:

    love that post and so happy that Escher was happy and lovey instead of hater toward the end. I enjoyed all those photos where you can see Escher snuggling nearby the baby. 🙂

  3. Moira Says:

    What a great post! We also have an older kitty diagnosed with kidney disease (along with a second older cat and a young rambunctious one with peeing issues, so I sympathize). Our kitty is a friendly mellow boy though, and loves to snuggle up to you. It amazes me how tolerant cats can be of children. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. laura Says:

    First, so sorry for your loss. Anyone who’s lost a non-human family member can certainly empathize.
    Secondly, thank you for your post. I have 3 very rowdy feline boys, and at 24 weeks, am already a bit nervous as to how they’ll react. I have my bets as to which of Edgar, Poe, or Nimh will react badly, but clearly all bets are off. As always, I learn so much from your postings (or at least get a different perspective from the standard stuff).

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